Hidden in Plain Sight

The shadowy world of classified military projects, which accounts for $32 billion a year in funding, is a curious place. The people involved can’t tell you anything about it — they’d have to kill you — but they like to wear spiffy identifying patches front and center on their uniforms. And what do badges for dark, secret ops look like? Absolutely incredible — but also nutbag crazy. There’s a naked woman riding a killer whale, a dragon clutching the Earth, and an alien eating a B-2, along with a hefty dose of goose-pimpling text like “A Lifetime of Silence,” “The Ghost Squadron,” and “We Make Threats Not Promises.” You’ll also find lots of grim reapers, Latin, occult symbols, and other manly stuff that would be right at home on a Megadeth T-shirt. Although the actual projects the patches refer to remain on need-to-know basis — and we’re way down on that list — the emblems do leave you with the feeling we’re in good hands, at least with regard to secretly funded awesome patch-making. Local artist Trevor Paglen, who regularly documents our classified government, shows off his collection in the book I Could Tell You but Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon's Black World. Today, he joins photographer Michael Light, who often works with covert images, and writer Rebecca Solnit in a discussion titled “Landscape Is Destiny.”
Sat., April 12, 3 p.m., 2008

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